Vintage boutique keeps the 'leather & chains' scene alive in Jozi

07 December 2017 - 12:23 By MOTLATSI KHOSI
 Mike Leather's vintage biker boutique is a homage to Joburg's 1980s punk past.
Mike Leather's vintage biker boutique is a homage to Joburg's 1980s punk past.
Image: Alon Skuy

A hidden gem in Johannesburg is also a tribute to the history of South Africa's punk and alternative scene.

Recently moved down the road from Jan Smuts Avenue in Rosebank to just past Hyde Park Corner, the Add-Vintage entrance is surrounded by a leather garment display.

Walk inside and the smell of leather engulfs you. If you're lucky you'll see a black man on a chrome bike, complete with dangling tassels, outside the entrance. Mike Leather, the owner of Add-Vintage, calls himself a "punk rock machine on two wheels".

One wall of the shop houses a beautiful collection of white cowboy leather boots and, if you explore deeper, you'll find leather bondage gear, a skull helmet and lots of metal stud jewellery.

Born and raised in Johannesburg, Leather started working with skins at the Market Theatre, where he made his own clothes.

"I was a punk back then, making my own leather gear," he says. "I used to have a Mohawk and armbands with studs. It was the 1980s. I started making leathers that you couldn't buy anywhere else. People would ask where I'd bought them, and eventually I started taking orders."

He opened his first shop, called Kingdom Leather, in Hillbrow and today he has a vast collection of 1980s leather punk jackets.

 "We partied downtown at Subway and at Doors, which was in the Carlton Centre back then. Tourists from overseas would come to South Africa to hang out in Newtown bringing with them new styles for us to emulate."

In the 1980s, a black punk, hanging out with white boys and playing rock or jamming to punk music, was very unusual
Mike Leather

The Market Theatre was the heart of the Joburg punk movement.

"That's where you'd find the parties, the clothes, the music," he says. "In the 1980s, a black punk, hanging out with white boys and playing rock or jamming to punk music, was very unusual. But those who know their punk history know that the movement was anti-establishment.

"People thought we were Satanists - it was difficult, but also liberating, to be different in the confines of apartheid," he says.

According to Leather, it's much easier to be "different" today. Everything you want is available here now, thanks to the influx of big international brands.

"Also we didn't have TV then. Everything changed when TVs became common in every household," he says.

"I have a variety of people who have been coming into my store for years. Those in the know come for the great quality of my leathers," he says.

• Contact Mike on 083-728-2274.

• This article was originally published in The Times.


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